A recent clinical trial performed by U.S. scientists proves that the “futuristic idea that microchips could be implanted under a patient’s skin to control the release of drugs has taken another step forward.” The Details The microchip, along with several (dependent on the number of doses needed) small, individually sealed wells of drug product, is packaged into a device that is similar to the size of a pacemaker and made out of biocompatible materials . “The whole device is approximately 3cm by 5cm, and 1cm thick,” explained Dr. Robert Farra. This device started as a research project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but is now being developed by a company, MicroCHIPS Inc. How it Works Inside the device, the drug wells are capped by a thin membrane of platinum and titanium. A dose is only released when that cap is broken by a small electrical current. The chip is programmed to control the timing of each dose, which allows them to be scheduled in advance and delivered on-time. The device also holds the capability to be remotely controlled. In cases such as pain management medicine delivery, etc. the device can by controlled through a remote producing a radio signal. “When the microprocessor decides to pass the current through a particular membrane, the membrane decomposes in about 25 microseconds,” states Prof Michael Cima. “The drug is then available for pick up in the capillaries that surround the device to go into the bloodstream.” Solving Problems – One Microchip at a Time A nurse, Julie Thomson of the UK’s National Osteoporosis Society, said that “such innovations could improve compliance among patients, some whom will stop injecting themselves [with their needed medication] because of the hassle.” These automated drug delivery systems are likely to prove popular for patients who currently have a daily regimen of self-administered injections. Possible uses for the device include DNA vaccine delivery, cancer treatments, pain management, gene therapy treatment and more. The Clinical Trail The most recent clinical trial was conducted by U.S. scientists who used the device to deliver human parathyroid hormone fragment [hPTH(1-34)] for the treatment of osteoporosis. The device was inserted into the waists of each of the 8 women involved in the trial and activated using a remote control. The clinical trial reported the chip showed the correct doses could be administered and that there were no serious side effects using the device. Though this trial is known as the first in-human testing of a wirelessly controlled drug delivery microchip, this technology has been in development for more than 15 years. What’s Next? MicroCHIPS, Inc. believes that these drug devices could eventually contain hundreds of drug wells and researchers from MIT believe the devices could be combined with chips that hold reservoirs of different kinds of drugs, and create a system which could adapt treatments in response to changing conditions in a patient’s body.